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Students/Faculty News Kevin Storr July 28, 2023

FAOTA honorees: Chris Eidson and Valley McCurryFAOTA honorees: Chris Eidson and Valley McCurryChris Eidson, Ph.D., MBA, OTR/L, FAOTA, assistant professor, UAB Department of Occupational Therapy, was inducted into the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Roster of Fellows earlier this year. The organization that represents nearly 250,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy students, inducts fewer than 30 people to their Roster of Fellows annually. It is an exception to be nominated and then selected to join this exclusive group.

“To have two awardees from the same institute in the same year is rare and awesome,” said Gavin Jenkins, Ph.D., chair, Department of Occupational Therapy. “Chris, and his colleague Valley McCurry who was also elected, have had their immense and long commitment to state and national leadership in our profession recognized in being awarded this honor.”

Since 1973, the AOTA has annually recognized occupational therapists that have set themselves apart over their careers based on their knowledge, expertise, leadership, advocacy, guidance, and significant contribution. Eidson has checked off every category – multiple times – because he is intentional and committed in all he does.

“The idea that it is the things we do, our occupations, that bring meaning and purpose to life – once I really understood that – it was a transformational moment for me, it gave me meaning in a way I didn’t have prior,” said Eidson. “Virtually everything I do now – both professionally and my personal life – reflects this. I know that might sound a little corny, or melodramatic, but it is true for me.”

You can rattle off some of Eidson’s prowess like – 8 peer reviewed publications, reviewer for 2 research journals and 3 textbooks, and a 19-time presenter for national conferences.

But you also need to know that he is a true educator. Eidson is the type that also teaches by example in his actions and he exemplifies strong principles every day for all who he instructs and interacts with.

As his nominator said:

“Teaching is both an art and a science. The ability to give future therapists the knowledge and expertise to further our profession starts with the ability to maintain and share this knowledge to a deeper degree than that of a practitioner. Within his department, Mr. Eidson is considered the expert on teaching and pedagogy, and has mentored new faculty to help them become dynamic teachers.”

 Eidson and McCurry with UAB OTD studentsEidson and McCurry with UAB OTD students

And in 2020, he won the UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. At that time, one of the students who nominated Eidson captured why he has been a stellar educator during his career at UAB. They believed the award was about a mutual faith between him and his students. They say that was what bolstered their learning experience every day.

“Educators need to have the ability to build trusting relationships with their students in order to create a safe, positive and productive learning environment,” they said. “[Mr. Eidson] cares for his students and responds to their individual needs to ensure their success.”

We can also credit his Fellow honor to his extensive service at the state level – a member of the Alabama Occupational Therapy Association since 2006, Co-Chair, Government Affairs Committee (2008-16), President-Elect (2016) and President (2017).

And credit being a strong voice for occupational therapists where he worked with the national association (AOTA) and the state association (ALOTA) to create the legislation that helped revise the practice act for the first time in 20 years.

But the Fellow award – like Eidson himself – is not concerned about lists and titles. They are concerned ultimately about people. Specifically for Eidson, it is a concern for other people rather than himself.

“As an advocate for occupational therapy and occupational therapists, he has worked tirelessly for years to develop standards for licensure in the state of Alabama, because that is what protects the public, the consumers of occupational therapy, and the occupational therapists themselves,” said his nominator.

Eidson and McCurry received the honor at the AOTA INSPIRE 2023 annual conference and expo in Kansas City, Missouri. They join UAB OT colleagues Jewell J. Dickson, OTD, MPH, OTR/L, ATP, FAOTA, Class of 2022, and Elizabeth (Beth) Barstow, Ph.D., OTR/L, SCLV, FAOTA, Class of 2015, on the AOTA Roster of Fellows.

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